Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai on Friday condemned the alleged incidents of painting Karnataka buses with pro-Maharashtra slogans and appealed to Eknath Shinde’s government to take immediate steps to put an end to this.
Bommai also said that such incidents will create a division between the states and therefore Maharashtra must act quickly.
Reports from Pune said that a group of activists, allegedly from a pro-Marathi group, painted state buses with slogans such as “Jai Maharashtra” in black ink and hurled slogans against Bommai.
The alleged incidents come amid a war of words between the leaders of the two states over the interstate border dispute over Belagavi.
“Our India is a union of states. Each state has its own rights. These states were formed under the State Reorganization Act. The law is very clear and it is the duty of the respective government to maintain peace, law and order and ensure that there is peace and tranquility between the states,” Bommai told reporters here.
Commenting on the bus painting incidents, he said, “If anyone does it (vehicle painting), I condemn it and urge the Maharashtra government to take immediate action and stop it. ” “The government of Maharashtra must act quickly. I especially urge the deputy chief minister, the state’s home minister (Devendra Fadnavis) to take immediate action,” the chief minister said.
He said, “We are law-abiding people and we have our rights.” Maharashtra filed a case with the Supreme Court in 2004 and Karnataka is engaged in a legal battle that will continue in the future, Bommai said.
“We are convinced that justice is with us. We will fight with all our might. We will guard our borders and our people,” Bommai said.
On whether he will hold talks with the Maharashtra government, Bommai said: “I made it very clear yesterday that our first priority is to fight a legal battle because ultimately, when the case is pending in the Supreme Court, it should Supreme Court eventually appealed.” According to him, the case filed by Maharashtra is not on the merit of the application (petition) but on the enforceability of the case.
“Article three (of the Indian constitution) is very clear about the reorganization of the state. I don’t want to say anything. Let the Supreme Court rule on that.” He reiterated that an all-party meeting has been convened next week to discuss the issue of the border dispute.
The chief minister of Karnataka had alleged that the predominantly Kannada speaking Panchayats in Jat Taluka in the Sangli district of Maharashtra had passed resolutions to merge with Karnataka in the past amid a severe drought situation and an acute drinking water crisis, and that his government had developed plans to help them by providing water. “The state government is seriously considering it,” he had said.
He had also said that Karnataka’s argument is also the merger of the predominantly Kannada-speaking Solapur and Akkalkot areas of Maharashtra with Karnataka.
Bommai’s statements had provoked sharp reactions from the leaders of Maharashtra.
Fadnavis said earlier this week: “No village in Maharashtra is going to Karnataka! The state government will vigorously fight in the Supreme Court over Marathi speaking villages in Karnataka including Belgaum-Karwar-Nipani!
Earlier this week, Eknath Shinde’s government in Maharashtra appointed two ministers to coordinate with the legal team regarding the trial over the dispute that will go to the Supreme Court.
Bommai said shortly afterwards that the state has deployed a battery of top lawyers, including Mukul Rohatgi and Shyam Diwan, to fight his case.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Shinde said earlier this week: “The late Balasaheb Thackeray was always a staunch supporter of the state’s demand to make Belgaum (Belagavi) a part of Maharashtra. We have concentrated our focus on solving the problem. If necessary, the number of lawyers would be increased”.
Maharashtra has laid claim on linguistic grounds to Belagavi (formerly known as Belgaum), which was part of the Bombay Presidency at the time of independence.
Bordering Maharashtra, Belagavi has a significant population of Marathi speaking people and was a point of contention between the two states for decades.
Karnataka has repeatedly maintained that the Mahajan Commission’s report on the border issue is final and that “there is no question of letting go of even an inch of Karnataka’s border”.
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